Ecuadorian National Found Guilty Of Possessing Over 1,100 Kilograms Of Cocaine In The Eastern Pacific Ocean

Ecuadorian National Found Guilty Of Possessing Over 1,100 Kilograms Of Cocaine In The Eastern Pacific Ocean

Tampa, FL – United States Attorney Roger B. Handberg announces that a federal jury has convicted Simon Arcentales Castro (38, Ecuador) of possessing with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine on a vessel subject to the jurisdiction of the United States. Arcentales Castro faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 years, and up to, life in federal prison. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for January 6, 2023. He and two other individuals were indicted on January 27, 2022.

According to testimony presented at trial, a maritime patrol aircraft spotted a 50-foot low-profile in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, about 100 miles from the nearest point of land. The vessel was suspected of drug smuggling because it was purposely built to avoid detection, was operating without navigational lights at night, and was sailing in a location where maritime drug smuggling by similar vessels is common. The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Cutter James launched a small boat to investigate and found Arcentales Castro and two other men on board. The USCG determined the vessel to be without nationality, and therefore subject to U.S. jurisdiction. A search of the vessel revealed over 1,100 kilograms of cocaine, worth approximately $30 million, hidden in the vessel’s forward hull.

This case was investigated by the United States Coast Guard and the Panama Express Strike Force, a standing Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force (OCDETF) Strike Force comprised of agents and analysts from the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, and the U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Interagency Task Force South. OCDETF identifies, disrupts, and dismantles the highest-level criminal organizations that threaten the United States using a prosecutor-led, intelligence-driven, multi-agency approach. Additional information about the OCDETF Program can be found at www.justice.gov/OCDETF.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Lauren Stoia.

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